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Travel documents and port of entry

Certificate of Eligibility

A student’s Certificate of Eligibility will be either an I-20 or DS-2019, depending on whether the student is coming to the U.S. on an F student visa or a J student visa. The “F” and “J” simply refer to different types of visas the U.S. government provides to international students.

I-20 sample.

An I-20 document is used to apply for a student visa in the F category. A DS-2019 is used to apply for a student visa in the J category. You can find out which document you have by reading the fine print in the bottom left corner of the first page of the document. Please review your Certificate of Eligibility to ensure that the information is correct and complete using the guidelines below. If information needs to be changed or added, please contact the Mizzou office that issued your document:

Undergraduate students: or +1 573-882-6007

Graduate students with I-20 certificates: or +1 573-882-6311

Graduate students with DS-2019 certificates: or +1 573-882-6007

United States entry procedures

F and J student visa holders may enter the U.S. up to 30 days prior to the program start date listed on their certificates of eligibility.

All students must arrive prior to the mandatory international orientation session. Please notify the International Center by e-mail as soon as possible if you will not be able to enter the U.S. in time to attend orientation due to visa processing delays.

When you arrive in the U.S., officers from Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will review your documents at the port of entry before they admit you into the country.

Please have the following documents ready for the CBP officer to review:

  • Passport. A passport is a biographical booklet issued by a national government to its citizens to allow for travel to other countries and return to their home countries. Make sure your passport is valid and will not expire soon. The CBP officer in the United States will review your passport and student visa. He/she will then stamp your passport to indicate the date and place that you arrived in the U.S.
  • Certificate of Eligibility (I-20 or DS-2019). The CBP officer will stamp and make a notation on this document also. You must show the CBP the Certificate of Eligibility for the school you plan to attend. If you applied to multiple schools in the U.S., you must show the I-20 or DS-2019 that lists the school you actually plan to attend.
  • I-94. Form I-94 is a card that will be distributed to you on your flight to the U.S. Please complete this form and give it to the CBP officer when you enter the U.S. The CBP officer will stamp the I-94. He/she also will note on the I-94 your student visa type (e.g., F-1, J-1, F-2, J-2) and duration of status (D/S). This means that you are allowed to stay in the U.S. as long as you are legally "in status" with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). We will discuss how to stay in status at the mandatory orientation session. The CBP officer may attach the I-94 to your passport. Please verify that the CBP officer wrote the correct visa status and D/S on your I-94 before leaving his/her work station.

Please know that the CBP has the authority to deny admission into the U.S. If you have difficulties crossing the U.S. border, please call our office and ask to speak with an international student adviser.

The USCIS website's student page provides information about what students can expect at the border.

Note: You might have your fingerprints taken at the U.S. border.

Note: Entry procedures are different for citizens of Canada.